Human touch


It began raining abut 9.00pm last night and has hardly seemed to stop all day.

During this afternoon, when the rain became especially fierce, I retreated from the garden at Benmore to The Bothy; the room the gardeners use for tea breaks and lunch.

As the rain threw gravel at the window and the clock ticked monotonously, time… time… time… I worked on a poem but just couldn’t find the right words.  As I struggled, I thought about Hemingway.  “I write one page of masterpiece to ninety-one pages of s**t,” Hemingway confided to F. Scott Fitzgerald in 1934.  “I try to put the s**t in the wastebasket.”

Most of us never write even one page of masterpiece, but we keep on trying, driven by… I was going to say hope but I think that falls way, way short of what drives most writers. (If you know what drives you and you’re willing to share, please do.)

sundialI know Hemingway wasn’t a poet (in the conventional, establishment-accepted, narrow-and-therefore-limiting sense) and I have no idea if he was a gardener but I have a lot of time for some of the things he says about writing. For example,

“Writing, at its best, is a lonely life. … he does his work alone and if he is a good enough writer he must face eternity, or the lack of it, each day.”

I was about to get rather serious with this blog but I’ve just noticed that if I push my tongue into my cheek slightly, those lines apply just as much to gardening.

Gardening, at its best, is a lonely life. … he [the gardener] does his work alone and if he is a good enough gardener he must face rain, or the lack of it, each day.”

Luckily, there is no lack of rain here at Benmore today.

Right, that’s enough prose.

Here’s a poem about another sort of being alone.

Human touch

She’s young, appraises me standing
in my bra and knickers, asks me
to rate the pain. As Keaton is slapstick,
Akhmatova grief. What eases it?

 Lying prone, as if painted by Chagall.
Do I sleep? Sleep snores in my kitchen.
I can put on the light, the World Service,
do crosswords – he still doesn’t wake.

 Twisting a plastic spine, she shows how
nerves get trapped, supports my coccyx
as I learn an exercise. Her hands are soft,
cold. I get the bus home, shivering,
in tears, treat the shock with tea,
because discounting the rush hour tube
and taking change or tickets,
I’ve not been touched for years.

Sue Butler


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